An Asian man was punched in the face on Saturday on the Lower East Side in what is being investigated as a hate crime, according to the NYPD.
The 66-year-old victim was on Allen Street near Houston Street when a man shouted at him and punched him in the face before running off just before 9 a.m. Saturday, the police department said in media alert about the incident.
A police spokesperson did not have information about what the suspect yelled at the victim. The NY Post reported that the victim told police he heard the suspect say the word “Chinese” several times.
One witness told the Post the attacker said, “‘If I ever see you around here again, I’m gonna beat your ass.'” Police described the suspect as around 30 or 40 years old and around 5 feet 5 inches tall, wearing dark clothing and carrying a blanket.
Reports of hate crimes against Asians have risen significantly during the pandemic, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, which says the number of anti-Asian hate crimes reported to the NYPD increased from 3 in 2019 to 28 in 2020.
In Clinton Hill, ABC7 reports that an Asian American business owner, Michael Chang, has been harassed for months by a group of teenagers with racist slurs made at him. On Friday, a man tried to intervene and stop the attack but the group reportedly threw a chair at him and injured his face.
Another man, 68, was attacked on the 1 train in lower Manhattan inside the subway station at Franklin and Varick streets around 2:40 p.m. on Friday, leaving him hospitalized with head injuries, according to the police department.
The NYPD was not investigating the incident as a hate crime as of Sunday. At first, a department spokesperson said the victim is not Asian, but by Sunday evening, issued updated information that the man is Sri Lankan. The department did not immediately answer a question about whether the crime would be categorized as a hate crime.
A witness told NBC News the attack was racially motivated and the attacker made anti-Asian remarks.
Witness George O’krepkie, 55, told Gothamist that he was sitting across from the 68-year-old man on a northbound 1 train when the attacker threw something at him and began beating him in the head, yelling “you motherf—ing Asian.”
O’krepkie, a Long Island resident who works in lower Manhattan, said he told police officers about what he saw, but was told the department wouldn’t classify it as a hate crime.
“If that’s not a hate crime, I don’t know what a hate crime is,” said O’krepkie, who felt he needed to document the horror of the incident in a photo before pivoting to helping mitigate the man’s bleeding. “He was in a complete state of shock.”
“I think it’s just sickening,” he added.
The police department said the suspected attacker on the subway is around 30 years old, 6 feet 2 inches tall, and last seen wearing a black leather jacket, white jeans, a black hat, and a pink sweater. [UPDATE, 8:58 a.m., March 22nd: The NYPD arrested and charged a man with assault. Scroll down for updates.]
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: Do you know this guy? On 3/19/21 at approx 2:40 PM, inside the Franklin & Varick St. subway station in Manhattan, the suspect punched a 68-year-old male in the head, leaving the victim in critical condition. Any info, call or DM @NYPDTips at 800-577-TIPS. pic.twitter.com/FGpwcgTJID
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) March 21, 2021
The incidents come as the country is reeling from shootings in Atlanta in which eight people, including six Asian women, were murdered amid a surge in racist attacks against Asians, often linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. A USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll released Sunday found that one in four Americans have seen someone blame Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly half of Asian Americans—46%—had witnessed such harassment, according to the poll, which was taken late last week.
On Sunday, various demonstrations and rallies are being held against hate crimes, including a rally at Columbus Park at 1 p.m. organized by Jack Liang and a 2 p.m. rally, march, and bike ride at Barclays Center organized by Riders for Black Lives, 50 Mile Run For Justice Project, and Black Women’s March in solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. There will also be a “unity vigil” in Flushing at 1 p.m., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is holding a rally against discrimination at 4 p.m. at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
UPDATE, 8:58 a.m., March 22nd: Police arrested and charged Marc Mathieu, 36, of the Bronx for attacking the 68-year-old man on the 1 train, the NYPD announced late Sunday evening.
Mathieu was charged with assault. The NYPD has not yet answered a question about whether the incident would be categorized as a hate crime.
This article has been updated with additional information from a witness and the police department.